May 11, 2021
Tan Books has released a newly revised redux of the manual of prayers published by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (imprimatur 1888) titled The Little Office of Baltimore. The Baltimore council, which produced a catechism that formed generations of the faithful, also produced an English version of the Little Office, a devotion derived from the Roman Breviary. By giving life to The Little Office of Baltimore, the publisher aims to do similarly with its compilation of psalms, scriptures, lessons, and collects to be prayed at each of the eight hours of the Church’s prayer: matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline.
The look and feel of book alone conveys something of the magnificence of its contents with the beautiful black leather cover, embossed gold title, and edged gold leaf pages. For a bibliophile and a devotee of the Office like myself, handling a book of such beauty and sturdiness requires a reverence that translates easily into prayer.
What is more, the stately diction of the Little Office of Baltimore also heightens the act of prayer. One will find in this translation an appropriately elevated, richly textured point of entry to the language of the psalms. For instance, the Benedicite is translated thus: “All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever. O ye Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord: bless the Lord, O ye Heavens.”
The inclusion of “ye” is emblematic of the traditionalism of the translation; as a stylistic decision it contributes to the otherworldliness of the act of prayer. This is not ordinary language.